Picks and Pans Review: The Butterfly Effect

updated 02/02/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/02/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart

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The hero of this muddled thriller suffers from memory blackouts. Filmgoers who make it to the end of the turgid Butterfly Effect might well be advised to follow suit.

When first we meet Evan Treborn, he's a 7-year-old who, upon being asked by a teacher to draw a picture of what he wants to be when he grows up, depicts himself, bloody knife in hand, standing alongside two freshly slaughtered corpses. His worried mom confronts him about the drawing, but Evan claims he can't remember making it. Thirteen years later, a now college-age Evan (Kutcher) begins dredging up long-repressed memories of what happened during that childhood blackout and others that followed. As he remembers a past incident of sexual abuse and other nasty stuff, he figures out a way to go back in his mind and change what happened. Or does he?

Codirectors-writers Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber (who scripted Final Destination 2) keep piling on ludicrous plot twists until a teetering Effect collapses into a heap of hooey. Kutcher works hard at Serious Emoting here but, given the unintentionally farcical scenes he has to play—did I mention that he's armless at one point?—it' s wasted effort. Smart, as a troubled girl Evan has always loved, comes off better, but she has the distinct advantage of appearing in fewer scenes. (R)

THRILLER

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